The year is 1/1/1960, and the scene is at the foot of the Aberdare Ranges in a tiny village called Kahuho. Here, on a very chilly morning, my paternal grandmother (whom I am named after) gave birth to her ninth born child Jonathan Kiragu.
In the years after independence, life was hard and poverty was rife. My father’s family was no different. In 1968 he moved to Turasha to live with his elder brothers who took care of him and took him to school. In 1977 my father was admitted to Nyeri High School to do his O’ levels. Shortly after finishing high school, he got saved in 1981 in a church and his life changed completely.
In the days that followed, my father had a deep hunger and need to preach the word and evangelize. He went from village to village and his fame as an evangelist grew. He was respected even among the elderly whom he had led to Christ.
His passion for evangelism grew more and more. Also, in this period, he had several dreams where God communicated that He was calling my father into a life of pastoral ministry. He knew without a shadow of a doubt, that this was God’s plan for his life.
In 1983 my father went through a wilderness season. He was certain God had called him into pastoral ministry but with that came another conflicting feeling; the time to shepherd had not arrived. At that time, nothing seemed to work. He had no job. He had wanted to apply to KMTC but had been denied a chance due to rampant corruption (sounds familiar?). An opportunity had presented itself, but there was a catch, he would only be admitted into the school if he was willing to part with a few coins. His elder brothers who had been his guardians called him crazy and threatened to have nothing to do with him because he refused to bribe his way into the school. My father however stayed adamant.
Interestingly, my father has carried this trait with him in life. Once my mum owned a small establishment that sold foods and beverages. One of the many requirements required to be compliant with the county rules is that there is a particular gear you have to wear as you handle food. Having just cleared high school, my mum would carry me along with her to work. One day my dad found me having not worn the necessary gear and he was far from happy. He made it crystal clear, he was not going to bribe anyone to get me out if I refused to comply with the county regulations.
Anyway, back to 1983. My dad had to do menial jobs to survive and coupled with that he spent most of his free time spreading the gospel. He lived in a small shack with gaping holes located in a place called Majengo on the outskirts of Kenyatta University. One day he went back to his house feeling completely dejected. His life was not moving at the pace he expected; in fact, it was not moving at all. He didn’t think even his service to the Lord amounted to anything, so he prayed or rather complained to God about this. That day God appeared to him in a dream, showed him his own tiny hands tilling the ground. Behind these tiny hands were humongous hands that were tilling right after them.
When he woke up, he resolved not to complain anymore. He made a pact with God; He would serve Him faithfully and abide by His timing in his life. He would continue to do the casual jobs that he had to do, up until the day God would deem it fit for him to pastor a church.
In the formative years of his ministry, he preached a lot in Kisumu. In fact, he says Kisumu was the first place he had to deliver a sermon in English which he derived from Mark 16:17, a sermon which he says shall never be forgotten. During his time in Kisumu, he met a man whom he evangelized to day after day but the man would not budge. One day as they were walking in a field, there was a sudden change in the atmosphere. My dad could feel that the presence of God had permeated the atmosphere. When you read the Bible, you will realize that every time God manifests Himself in an out of the ordinary way, case in point Daniel, people are terrified. And this was no different. My dad could not see or hear anything but he knew something supernatural was happening. His friend had gone on his knees and was grasping on my dad as would a child. In a matter of minutes, this experience ended.
Around this time, my dad began working as a casual labourer for a construction site. As expected, life was hard, but he was earning a decent living. One day, as he was working God instructed him to take a picture and keep it as a memorial. Shortly after this, he got a job as a clerk in an auditing firm. It was the best job he’d had so far. He even earned a decent salary.
He had a good work ethic and he grew in favour with his bosses. Once, they told him they wanted to buy a company car, but only he could be trusted with it. But, he told them, he didn’t know how long he was going to work for them because the day God would call him into the pastoral ministry he would leave.
What is a good story without a happily ever after? In the course of his ministry, he met a young woman; Hannah who had just as much zeal and love for God as he did and who would turn out to be his wife and mother of his children. I asked him if God spoke to him in an extraordinary way to show him that she was the one, he answered no. My mum however said that God had talked to her about it; a story for another day.
In 1992, at the peak of his career, my dad was called by the church he had faithfully been serving, Full Gospel Church and was told they wanted him to serve as a full-time pastor. My dad knew it, this was it. The moment he had waited for most of his life had finally arrived. Coincidentally, the previous day at work, he had also been presented with an amazing opportunity. His bosses wanted him to advance his education and they had handed him a cheque with the school fees needed.
In one single night, his life had taken a different trajectory. The following day, he went to work, cheque in his hands and gave it back. Even though he had made it clear from the beginning that he would one day transition into pastoral ministry, it had taken so long no one actually thought it was going to happen. Needless to say, everyone thought he was a fool.
My parents had just been blessed with their firstborn, my brother, and the pay he would now earn was meager compared to what he earned at his previous job. I know what you’re thinking, how did my mum take it? With a lot of grace, she says. She had known where my father’s heart was and she knew it was just a matter of time.
In the years my father has been a pastor he has led many to Christ. He has many disciples including pastors, church elders, and deacons. He has also planted thirty churches, three of them in Tanzania.
Most importantly, he has been a good brother to his siblings. I have seen him take up the role of leadership even though he is the ninth born. He has been a very good husband to my mother. Theirs is hands down the best marriage I have ever seen, and I say this without batting my eyes because I have lived with them for twenty-five years; you can’t pretend for twenty-five years. My father has also been an exemplary father to my siblings and I.
Daddy, you are a formidable man and I am so grateful that you get to be my father. I am so grateful because of your daily obedience to God. I am grateful there are fruits I enjoy because of your obedience. Thank you for all the generational blessings you have passed on to us. Thank you for the imperishable inheritance you gave us by leading us to Jesus Christ. I know it is fathers who tell their children they are proud of them, but in some rare times such as this, a child looks up to their father and declares that they are proud to be one of their legacies.